Updates: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – reactions in Estonia

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Estonian World brings you the latest reactions from Estonia – one of the few NATO member states that is bordering with Russia. For updates from April, March and February, please see a separate article.

17 May 2022 – Estonia’s defence chief: Russia doesn’t have the strength to occupy Estonia

The chairman of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Martin Herem said that Russia’s goal was to destroy the economic and political culture of the Western world, but it didn’t have the strength to occupy Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. He said to the Lithuanian Public Broadcasting that Russia is waging a hybrid war against the West through a conventional war in Ukraine. 

“Our economy is under stress, the prices rising, the people’s psyche has been attacked and people are somewhat scared about the refugees,” he told the Lithuanian network. However, he added that Russia can’t occupy the Baltic states or Eastern Europe: “They don’t have the strength for that and I think they don’t want to do it.” Herem also said that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would send a signal to the Russians that they’re not doing it against Russia, but because of Russia.

Martin Herem. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

15 May 2022 – No Ukrainian refugee in Estonia has gotten the promised €900 rent benefit

Even though, according to the law, every Ukrainian war refugee who’s received temporary protection from the Republic of Estonia should receive a €900 rent benefit, the state and the local municipalities haven’t in two months managed to agree on how to pay it and, therefore, no Ukrainian war refugee has received it, Eesti Päevaleht reports. This has created a big problem, according to the newspaper – the refugees can’t move to their own abodes from the hotels and the Tallink cruise ship that accommodates refugees at the Port of Tallinn, as the first month’s rent and the deposit is the hardest to come up with.

13 May 2022 – 1,700 people sign a petition that calls the Russian embassy building in Tallinn’s Old Town to be given the address “Free Ukraine 1”

“It needs to be done because it helps constantly remind the embassy staff and the Kremlin that the war in Ukraine is condemned in democratic societies,” Anne-May Nagel, one of the initiators of the petition and representative of the NGO EstYou, said in a statement.

“The petition does not ask for any of the Old Town streets to be renamed. It is a question of giving a new address to a specific section in front of the embassy building – so that, for example, on the invitation for people coming to the Russian embassy on 9 May (the date Russia celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany) next year, there will be the address ‘Free Ukraine 1’,” Nagel added.

The petition can be viewed and signed by Tallinn residents on the portal rahvaalgatus.ee. An initiative can be submitted to the Tallinn City Government if it has collected at least one per cent of the signatures of the residents of the municipality with the right to vote – about 4,400 signatures. The renaming of a street or a street section of the Russian embassies has already been undertaken in Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Prague.

A protest in front of the Russian embassy in Tallinn in late February 2022. Photo by Silver Tambur.

12 May 2022 – Estonia to help rebuild Zhytomyr Oblast in Ukraine

As the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on allies to pick the municipalities or regions they could help rebuild, Estonia has accepted Zhytomyr Oblast’s request to concentrate in the post-war rebuilding in that region. The city of Zhytomyr is located 120 kilometres (74 miles) west of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. In 2021, the city’s population was 263,000, the population of the entire oblast – bordering Belarus – is about 1.2 million.

The Estonian foreign ministry has already gotten a list of rebuilding needs from Zhytomyr Oblast and further cooperation will be planned according to it. According to Postimees, a delegation from Zhytomyr will visit Tallinn next week and the officials will go through the plan more precisely.

Zhytomyr Oblast highlighted within the borders of Ukraine. Screenshot from Google Maps.

11 May 2022 – UA War Infographics: Estonia has donated relatively more military aid to Ukraine than any other country

According to UA War Infographics, a Telegram channel that tracks military assistance by various countries, Estonia has donated Ukraine military aid worth one-third of its defence budget.

11 May 2022 – A Tallink ferry accommodates over 1,500 Ukrainian refugees

Estonian World paid a short visit to the ferry, “Isabelle”, moored at the Port of Tallinn and used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Owned by the Estonian shipping company, Tallink, the ferry currently hosts over 1,500 refugees, approximately 40 per cent of them children.

The temporary solution is paid for by the Estonian state and the Estonian Social Board’s staff is helping look after the Ukrainians on board. There are doctors, psychologists and pastors; even a kindergarten was set up on the ship. The refugees are free to visit the city, although the ferry’s ramp is officially closed between midnight and 5 AM (however, no one is left outside if late).

Estonia has accepted over 37,000 Ukrainian refugees since 22 February. Approximately 25,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit. Over 4,000 refugees, 1,500 of them children, are temporarily accommodated by the state.

A Tallink ferry hosts over 1,500 Ukrainian refugees, approximately 40 per cent of them children. Photo by Silver Tambur.

11 May 2022 – A Ukrainian cultural day to be held in Tallinn

The Estonia-based Ukrainians will share their culture and traditions with the local and international community at the Ukrainian Cultural Day, due to take place by the Tallinn TV Tower on 28 May.

A poster of the Ukrainian Cultural Day, due to take place by the Tallinn TV Tower on 28 May.

11 May 2022 – The Associated Press to move part of its workforce from Russia to Tallinn

The Associated Press, a global news agency, will in the coming weeks move part of its workforce from Russia to Tallinn, the Estonian capital. “Part of our employees will move to Tallinn in the next few week, to cover the Baltics and the wider region,” a spokesman of the agency Lauren Easton, told Delfi. The AP won’t close its Russia office entirely, though. Thousands of foreign and Russian journalists have left Russia after 24 February when Russia started its unprovoked war in Ukraine.

9 May 2022 – Estonia to sing for Ukraine on 22 May

A joint choir, “Estonia Sings for Ukraine”, is to gather at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds on 22 May to sing in support of Ukraine. The organisers welcome all singers to join the choir, provided they pre-register.

The joint choir is led by Hirvo Surva and the aim of the call is to get ten thousand singers together. The iconic Ukrainian tune “Oi u luzi chervona kalyna” (“The Red Viburnum in the Meadow”) will be performed, which composer Jonas Tarm has made a four-voice choral arrangement. The video recording will take place on Sunday, 22 May at 5 PM.

A screenshot from the “Estonia Sings for Ukraine” web page.

9 May 2022 – Svetlana Stsur: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has devaluated the victory over Nazism

Svetlana Stsur, an Estonian Russian, writes in an opinion piece that she understands the sentiment around 9 May and its meaning for the identity of many Russian-speaking people around the world – but, quoting a short story from her young Ukrainian friend, Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has devaluated the meaning of the date.

9 May 2022 – Many Estonian Russians commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany

On 9 May, Russia commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. In Estonia, thousands of Estonian Russians usually bring flowers to the old Soviet-erected war monuments, such as the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn. Because of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the date was this year under closer than usual scrutiny, and the monuments were under increased police surveillance.

Estonian World’s photographer Andrea Forlani paid a visit by the Bronze Soldier monument to see what was happening. At the time of his visit, all was calm – and at some point, there seemed to be more police than people.

8 May 2022 – An Estonian NGO sends two truckloads of 4x4s to Ukraine

An Estonian NGO, United Delivery Mission, has sent two truckloads of cars to Ukraine’s armed forces. The NGO was created for the purpose of helping Ukraine’s military with SUVs and other equipment. The NGO said it was “already working on putting together the next trailer” and people “can support its efforts by donating or by offering reasonably priced SUVs”.

A 4×4 supplied to Ukraine’s military by an Estonian NGO, United Delivery Mission.

8 May 2022 – Estonia’s central bank issues a two-euro coin designed by a Ukrainian refugee

The Bank of Estonia, the central bank of Estonia and a member of the euro area central bank system, is planning to issue into circulation a two-euro coin dedicated to Ukraine. The coin was designed by Daria Titova – a young Ukrainian war refugee who is studying at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Titova, originally from Kharkiv, explained the coin featured a girl as a symbol of tenderness, protecting a bird in her hand. The design also features an ear of wheat. The coin with the special design should enter circulation towards the end of 2022.

Estonia’s central bank issues a two-euro coin designed by a Ukrainian refugee, Daria Titova.

6 May 2022 – Baltic foreign ministers visit Ukraine

Eva-Maria Liimets, Edgars Rinkēvičs and Gabrielius Landsbergis – the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministers, respectively – are on a visit to Ukraine today. The ministers, who had meetings with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, expressed the “unwavering support of the Baltic states to Ukraine”, the Estonian foreign ministry said.

Eva-Maria Liimets, Edgars Rinkēvičs and Gabrielius Landsbergis – the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministers, respectively – visit Ukraine on 6 May 2022. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

4 May 2022 – Hundreds of Ukrainian kids need to go to court in Estonia

Hundreds of Ukrainian kids who have escaped the Russian unprovoked war in their homeland need to go to court in Estonia because their parents are not with them, but they need legal custodians to apply for benefits, Estonian weekly Maaleht writes. As of last week, some 11,000 Ukrainian kids had arrived in Estonia as war refugees; 78% of them are younger than 13. About 1,600 kids don’t have a legal custodian – their parents didn’t have the chance to leave Ukraine, but they sent their kids with their relatives, neighbours or acquaintances.

Helen Jõks, an official at the Estonian social ministry, told Maaleht that every child needs a legal custodian who can make decisions for the kid – like apply for benefits, make medical decisions or get the child other help. So the Estonian courts will have to appoint a temporary custodian to a child who doesn’t have their parents with them. Most of the time, the custodian will be the person with whom the kid arrived in Estonia.

3 May 2022 – Expert: Russia may need half a million service members to win in Ukraine

According to Leo Kunnas, an Estonian MP (EKRE) and a reserve lieutenant colonel, Russia may declare a general mobilisation in order to win in Ukraine. He told Delfi that if Russia indeed wants to win in Ukraine militarily, then it needs at least a three-fold superiority against Ukraine – which means half a million service members. However, if the general mobilisation is declared, it will take a few months to get them together and to arm and equip them, Kunnas added.

According to Western intelligence information, Russia may declare war against Ukraine on 9 May – the day Russia celebrates the victory in the Second World War. Kunnas said to Delfi that people should take this intel seriously as, up to now, the Western intelligence has been quite precise about Russia’s actions in Ukraine. So far, Russia has called its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine a “military operation” and “denazification”.

However, Kunnas also said that it would be impossible for Russia to take Ukraine in its entirety. “I’ll tell you right away, this is an impossibility. It’s not possible to take entire Ukraine. Even if Russia could take every Ukrainian city and demolish every battalion, even then they wouldn’t conquer Ukraine. It’s always easier to defend one’s own country. People want to do it. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men and women are very motivated to do that.”

Estonian MP and reserve lieutenant colonel Leo Kunnas. Photo by Ave Maria Mõistlik, shared under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.
Estonian MP and reserve lieutenant colonel Leo Kunnas. Photo by Ave Maria Mõistlik, shared under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

3 May 2022 – Estonia’s FM: No ban on giving Israeli weapons to Ukraine

According to the Estonian foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, Jerusalem hasn’t blocked Tallinn from giving Israel weapons to Ukraine, contrary to some reports published earlier this year. “I am not aware of any obstacles at the moment,” Liimets said, according to Jerusalem Post, adding that if there was such a ban, she would have raised it in her meetings with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid and defense minister Benny Gantz. “So far, we have gotten permission from all countries of origin for what we wanted to donate.”

Estonia has bought a lot of weapons from Israel in the past year, including more than 500 Spike anti-tank missiles and the Blue Spear missile system for coastal defense, the Post reported.

For updates from April, March and February, please see a separate article.

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